Given it’s size, startling scale of human and mechanical traffic and diversity of economic success, India is and always has been, a surprisingly safe country to travel in for western visitors.
A little common sense goes a long way. There is no need to be over-cautious. In refusing all offers of conversation and help the visitor will surely miss out on one of India’s greatest gifts that it bestows on the traveller – kind hospitality that can be both humbling and life affirming.
These tips will ensure you have a safe and successful trip:
- Politely decline offerings of food or drink from strangers on public transport – it is rare, but drugging and robberies have occurred.
- If anyone at a railway station tells you that your e-ticket for Indian Railways needs to be stamped, for a fee – this is a scam.
- India is full of imitators. If you are staying at a popular hotel, ensure your driver drops you at the right place – get him to call ahead on his mobile – not one with a similar name.
- With bottled water, always make sure the seal is intact. Also, stick to the old colonial adage of if you can’t peel it or cook it, forget it.
- Sadly, as with many other countries, western female travellers will invariably receive some unwanted male attention at some point during their visit. The best way to reduce this considerably is by not wearing revealing clothing – that means ruling out vests, shorts or tight-fitting clothes. Beautiful, affordable and stylish Punjabi suits (cotton trousers and long tunic) can be bought in lovely light materials all over India.
- On the metro in Delhi, ladies should make the most of the ‘women only’ carriages (more space, and even better – less staring).
- When hailing an auto or cycle rickshaw, it’s likely the driver will refuse to use the meter. Always agree a fare before you depart to avoid difficult arguments later.
- Always carry small notes for rickshaws (INR 10, 20 and 50 notes are best); drivers will inevitably not have change.
- In cities, when possible, avoid the rush hour; it can double the travel time of even a short journey and can be stressful if you’re in a rush.
Delhi can be unsafe for solo female travellers at night. Use a driver you know, or book a radio cab. Likewise in Goa or other touristy areas.
- As with anywhere, keep your wits about you when handling your credit/ATM cards at cash machines etc.
- In case something goes wrong – keep a photocopy of your passport, Indian visa and flight ticket separately from the originals when travelling. Leave a copy with a friend or relative at home.
- Do not leave your luggage unattended on trains or at railway platforms.
- Be wary of gem dealers, particularly in Agra and Jaipur, who promise substantial cash for delivery of jewellery abroad in return for an initial deposit. Get a personal recommendation from your concierge about where to shop for gems.
- Never trek alone anywhere in India, or anywhere else in the world for that matter – not least in case you have a fall or get lost.